4 Policies to Create a Student-Centric Schedule
As institutions increasingly dig into how they can support positive student outcomes, scheduling practices can no longer be ignored. The way the course schedule is designed can either contribute to meeting student needs or sabotage student course access.
While institutions never intend to create barriers for students, this is exactly what happens when faculty preferences and other institutional demands are the first to inform course schedules. Use the four proactive policies outlined below to shift from a faculty-centric schedule to one that focuses on meeting student needs.
Adhere to Standard Meeting Patterns
Keep students on track for program completion by determining and enforcing standard meeting patterns. When standard meeting patterns are employed, class start and end times are pre-determined and consistent across courses. This eliminates overlapping start and end times that force students to choose between courses.
Additionally, this approach allows institutions to ensure classrooms are not left empty for extended periods due to irregular class schedules. The maximized use of space also allows institutions to offer more courses to meet student demand.
Implement & Promote Scheduling Blocks
Simplify your scheduling practices with scheduling blocks. Students with children, employed students, and commuter students may find scheduling blocks especially supportive. Scheduling blocks group relevant courses together in a specific time frame so that students can easily register for needed classes, maintain a full course load, and make steady progress towards program completion.
For students with children or employed students, scheduling blocks offered from 9 am to 12 pm or 11 am to 2 pm can be especially beneficial as these students can complete all of their classes during daytime hours. Consider what time students need to pick up their children from school or arrive at their afternoon or evening jobs. This method helps ensure that all students, regardless of their external commitments, are able to access the courses they need.
Allocate Sections or Seats for High-Demand Courses
Strategically plan for the number of seats and sections needed for high-demand courses. Specifically, consider allocating a set number of seats or sections for high-demand courses that serve a variety of students, count towards multiple programs, or need to be taken by students in different years of their programs.
Instead of leaving course registration to chance and relying on a first-come-first-served approach, ensure that students’ needs are adequately met with strategic allocation. For high-demand courses that need to be accessed by first- and second-year students, consider allocating a predetermined number of seats or sections that don’t open up until their registration window. Additionally, consider allocating seats in high-demand courses where students outside of the main program need to access the course as well, such as MS or Ph.D. students who need a course offered as a part of an MBA program.
Create & Enforce Rules to Protect Against Course Conflicts
Proactively create rules that protect against course conflicts. While some institutions have guidelines for students to ask for accommodation for their overlapping courses, course conflicts are first and foremost an institution’s problem to solve, not a student’s problem to manage. These guidelines require students to actively email and petition for accommodations, which puts the burden on students and doesn’t address the systemic issue.
Proactively prevent course conflicts to ensure students don’t have to pick and choose between required courses. For example, do not allow co-requisite and prerequisite courses to be offered at conflicting times or at intervals that overlap. Institutions should determine courses in each department and program that should not conflict and ensure accurate scheduling of those classes. To do this, consult data from academic units and any program maps to determine courses that should not be scheduled at the same time.